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A capacity crowd converged on City Hall Wednesday evening to hear from the candidates running for The Eudora School Board.

Four of the six candidates were able to attend the event where the audience had the the opportunity to hear the candidates in an hour long question and answer session.  The candidates had the opportunity to let the audience know their feelings on the issues facing the District Administration and what their ideas are for leading the Eudora School District into the future.

All of the candidates in their opening remarks commented on how good the District is performing and wanted to help in continuing that level of performance.  Two of the candidates, Joe Hurla and Daniel Dickerson each made the comment that they moved to Eudora specifically because of the quality of the schools.

The line of questions then presented to the candidates were focused on the most important issue that will face the District in the coming months: The District budget.

The Eudora School District is facing a loss of revenue of 1.3 million in the coming school year, due to the loss of new facilities money and cutbacks by the state of Kansas in education funding. We specifically asked what area would the candidates look at, with the likelihood of having to cut a large amount of money from the budget.

Joe Pyle did not name any specific areas to cut because he wanted to see the information that will be brought to the board at next months School Board meeting.

Dickerson stated “The easy cuts have been made already” and went on to talk about how “we need to look at the nitty gritty and look at things like how our buses run their route and see if we can cut fuel costs by taking more efficient routes”.

Belinda Rehmer, talked about how tough the situation will be. “I don’t want to cut anything and I don’t how we do that and keep growing, which is mandated by the government. We have to grow and do better on our scores to keep our accreditation. How do you do that and at the same time make the necessary cuts.”

Hurla said reiterated the fact mentioned earlier that the “painless” cuts have already been made.  He wanted to look at all the efficiencies of operations to help offset “some of the painful cuts that are likely going to have to be made.”

Taxes were also discussed since the School District levies one of the larger mill rates in the area. The State Legislator has discussed, as a way to solve the state’s budget crisis and fill the gap in school financing, about raising the ceiling on the mill levies districts can charge.  The current mill levy for the Eudora School District sits at 71.721, approximately 0.8 mills from the current maximum allowed.

Dickerson stated the fact that Superintendent Don Grosdidier has said on multiple occasions before, that raising the levy the final 0.8 will bring in very little extra revenue to the District.  Dickerson talked about focused cuts in the budget, looking for “the needle in the haystack” as an alternative.

Rehmer’s response was “Raising the mill levy any further would be horribly damaging to Eudora.  Do I want to raise the mill levy? No. Do I see that as an option? Yea. I see that coming but I don’t want to do it.”

Hurla said that should be the last option we have. “We don’t have the tax base to support raising the mill levy. We should work at making sure the legislature doesn’t push those tax burdens on us.”

Pyle talked about how tough it currently is under the current economic situation to pay the taxes and how he is not a “big tax guy”.

Other topics covered through the hour long discussion included looking at other specific areas including extracurricular activities and disposition of school district properties such as Nottingham, West Elementary and and the Old Middle school at 10th & Main.

All the candidates agreed that extracurricular activities are an important part of the curriculum, though the district may have to start looking at fees to keep these programs in place.

As to ancillary properties, those of value like the Nottingham/Laws field should not necessarily be sold right now with a down real estate market. The consensus was to hold on to this piece of property until the economy turns in a better direction and more value could be obtained.  As to the 10th & Main property, the feelings were that since the building is in such poor shape and the city has an interest in that portion of land for a new Public Safety building, the best course of action would be to look towards that direction and explore that possibility.

This was an excellent opportunity for the citizens and patrons of the Eudora area to see the participating candidates in action and gauge from their responses on who to chose in the upcoming election.

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Editor’s note: We will have a full report Friday morning on the City Council Candidate forum that followed the School board session. Make sure to check eudorareporter.com to keep up to date as we bring you full coverage of your choices in action heading into the April 5th election.

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